The weather and subzero temperatures of winter can present a lot of problems – especially for older adults. Here are some ways to make sure your senior loved ones stay healthy and happy during the cold season.
Winter-Proof Their Home
The living space itself can become a hazard during the winter season. All of the ice buildup and snow can make any walkway slippery – even if it looks all right at first glance. A variety of safeguards can be implemented around the home to help protect your senior loved one this winter:
- Safely knock down icicles from rooftops and gutters.
- Shovel driveways and walkways.
- Lay down salt on steps, walkways, and nearby sidewalks.
- Keep a bag of de-icing salt by the front door with a cup for easy scooping.
- Ensure your loved one has a safe means of heating their home.
- Use a door stopper to help insulate interiors.
- Tape clear plastic film sheets across windows for insulation.
Heating is important. If your senior loved one lives on their own, they may want to save money on the monthly bill, but it’s still advised to keep the inside temperature at a base of 68o. Closing off unused rooms, using door stoppers for drafts, and putting plastic over the windows each help a lot.
Dress Well for the Outdoors
It’s amazing how much a zipped-up jacket or a scarf can decrease discomfort on a cold, windy day. You can even use it as an opportunity to go on a fun-filled shopping day with your loved one. Here is a checklist of several clothing items to help keep warm during the winter:
- Winter hat or ear muffs
- Waterproof gloves
- Waterproof jacket
- Long underwear
- Thick socks
- Boots with thick soles and non-skid traction
Non-slip traction on boots can make all the difference in avoiding a broken bone during the winter season.
Be Aware of Medical Issues
Certain medicines and medical conditions can negatively affect body temperature. If you or your senior loved one take any medications and you are unsure, ask your doctor if it might reduce body temperature during the winter. Here are some medical conditions that can cause body temperature to drop:
- Thyroid problems
- Dementia or Parkinson’s as a hindrance to dressing appropriately
Be Mindful of Seasonal Depression
Winter brings darker, shorter days that can bring down anyone’s mood. It’s important to make sure you or your senior loved one are getting enough social interaction, especially if they are deprived of hobbies requiring warmer conditions. Here are some ways to fight seasonal depression for your senior loved one:
- Visit your senior loved one often.
- Video call if you can’t visit, and schedule calls to make sure contact stays consistent.
- Suggest social groups, hobby meetups, or adult day care programs.
- Ask neighbors and friends to help do daily checkups.
- Start a seasonal hobby together.
- Set up times to go to events together.
Keep Their Car in Working Order
Winter does a lot of damage to a car, both immediately and long-term. Here are some ways to keep you or your senior loved one’s car in running condition during the winter:
- Start the car once a week to maintain the battery life.
- Clear and scrape windows after fresh snowfalls.
- Check oil and wipers (especially before the season hits).
- Get chains for tires in an area with extra snow.
- Make sure to have a valid roadside assistance membership.
Be Prepared for Anything
A few other problems may get overlooked, as they are less obvious. Here are some other safety tips for staying safe during winter months:
- Make sure a carbon monoxide detector is installed in the house. Gas heating and fireplaces can jeopardize the air.
- Provide supplies for a power outage, especially flashlights, batteries, and a form of entertainment that doesn’t use electricity.
- Make sure to keep a healthy diet for you or your loved one, including sources of vitamin D (the one our cells manufacture after receiving sunlight). Fish, milk, and grains are good options.
We hope you and your loved ones have a safe, healthy, and fun winter. If you’d like other ideas on older adult living, please read our Milestone Retirement Communities blogs.